The Untouchables: Thirties Giorgio Armani – Part 1 | Clothes on Film


The Untouchables (1987, directed by Brian De Palma) is remembered for, amongst other things, Sean Connery’s accent, that blatant Battleship Potemkin riff with the pram, plus a rather lavish Giorgio Armani wardrobe. Though it was a rough ride getting that look onto the screen.

Marilyn Vance-Straker was costume designer for The Untouchables, she created the look for each character. Armani then tailored most of the suits and accessories as per her designs. However, apparently too keen to stamp his house’s identity on garments, Vance-Straker had to re-cut most of the clothes Armani had provided in order to make them suitable for filming.


The overall result is as a gorgeous looking film that, while not precisely historically accurate, is definitely memorable, not to mention sartorially adaptable in a modern setting – which may or may not have been where problems between Vance-Straker and Armani originated.

Kevin Costner dons dark suits with flashes of pinstripe; Sean Connery a lot of chunky knitwear which took off frantically following the Prince of Wales’ flamboyant example during the 1920s. Expensive fabrics jump from the screen so much you feel inclined to reach out and stroke them.

Considering the influence of Hollywood gangsters such as Edward G. Robinson and Paul Muni at the time, some of the villains’ costumes are surprisingly sedate. However peripheral characters in The Untouchables wear clothes that would likely be a stretch for their bank balance.


Take newspaper man Scoop (Steven Goldstein) in a Glenurquhart (Glen) check jacket under his overcoat. Glenurquhart is a complex worsted that would have cost a fortune. Likewise patrolman Stone (Andy Garcia) with his short leather coat and lairy plaid wool pants. Yet despite such idiosyncrasies there are still many outfits to enjoy in the film. Here is a personal selection of the most desirable:


When we first meet Costner’s Elliot Ness he is earnest and optimistic, wearing a plain grey flannel suit and pattern tie.

One bungled liquor raid later and Ness is trawling the streets in a full length slip-on with raglan sleeves. This is an important scene because it is where Ness first meets Malone (Connery) walking the beat.


Then following a pep talk from a grieving widow, Ness silently vows to bring down Capone by whatever means necessary, requiring guts, guns, said Scottish beat cop, and the sharpest suit Kevin Costner will ever wear in his life:


Dark Grey single breasted wool suit with wide chalkstripe and wide lapels. Matching six button waistcoat, straight leg trousers with turn ups. White thin stripe shirt with long, narrow spread collar; red/blue geometric print tie. Light grey trilby hat with black silk band.

Even though the broad shouldered column or ‘London cut’ suit (later re-dubbed ‘American’ as Hollywood actors started wearing them) was to dominate the decade, Costner’s slimly cut jacket and straight leg pants are fine for 1930. Turn ups, or cuffs in America, were made fashionable by the Prince of Wales’ grandad Edward VII some thirty years earlier; while at the races he would roll his trousers up to avoid getting the hems muddy, or so the story goes.


This is a serious suit; sombre to reflect Ness’ mood. Chalk and pinstripes were a popular way of livening up a gloomy outfit, as was combining the weight of the stripes on the shirt and jacket. It gets the job done. He talks Malone round to helping him and they go to work…

Part 2 to follow.

© 2009 – 2010, Chris Laverty.

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